"You're so beautiful… Jesse, you're the most beautiful, desirable woman on earth."

Jesse blinked, and tried to regain her concentration.  The trouble was, she thought sadly, looking as the girl in the mirror took on a charmingly pensive expression, that her reflection was so enticing.  It was hard to keep her attention on anything but self-adoration.

Now, what was she looking at her mirror for? Not that she really required an excuse for this activity– it was her favourite hobby, after all. But for the first time in years, she was staring at her reflection with just the tiniest, nastiest shadow of doubt dimming the glossy sheen of her narcissism.

Why would Cassidy prefer that little blonde bitch to her? Not that she would take Cassidy back if she came crawling on her hands and knees, of course, but she was not supposed to be happy that they had split up. She certainly wasn't supposed to find a girlfriend who outranked Jesse and make out with her in public.

Jesse glared at her reflection.  Her eyes were larger and a more vibrant blue than Domino's guiless baby blues.  Her face was... perfection itself.  She realised she was beginning to slip off into a happy daydream again, and jerked herself back to her attempt at critical self-analysis. Her figure... Well, some people did prefer smaller breasts, thinking they were perky or some such nonsense.  Jesse ignored people with such clearly deluded ideas.  But it was Cassidy whose tastes were in question, so Jesse's breasts being too large was unlikely to cause a problem.

Her hair...

Jesse considered her hair.  She had worn her hair in the same sweeping curve ever since she had graduated from plaits. It was still unique and stylish, if a little expensive in styling products. But...

She remembered the way Domino's bright curls had bounced on her shoulders. The breeze had caught them like some living thing, like the quivering flames of a ponyta's mane.  Her hair had obviously never seen a bottle of hairspray in her life.  Jesse had always taken pride in the fact that it would take a hurricane to force her hair to move, but maybe that was a... miscalculation.

She bit her lip in determination. If Cassidy went for the cute innocent look, well, Jesse could play too. And then she could reject Cassidy and leave her downing in the slough of despair, and the world would be back on its proper axis.

She picked up her brush and a velcro roller, setting to work.

                                                            =R=

"James."

Jesse's partners were taking an afternoon nap on the double bed that was the standard for that hotbed of immorality, Team Rocket Headquarters. Jesse checked the clock, and noted that she had barely four hours to do her makeup before the party.  Well, at least her hair was done.

She sighed, and looked down at her boys. Meowth was curled into the crook of James' knee. They looked absolutely adorable. They were so damn sweet sometimes, she reflected indulgently.

"WAKE UP JAMES!" She jumped onto the bed and kicked him soundly in the ribs.

He stared up at her with wide, petrified eyes.  She primped a little.  "What do you think?" she asked sweetly, fluffing up one curl.

"J  - J..."

Jesse simpered.  Her new look obviously suited her. "Yes, James? What are you trying to say?"

"Jess – Jess  -"

The cute appeal of his speechlessness was beginning to wear off.  Jesse bent down, grabbed him by the collar, and hauled him to his feet, thrusting her face into his. "Tell me now!"

"Jess – J-Jess – Jess- "

She was running out of patience with his stammering.  "Tell me I'm gorgeous right now, or die. Your choice."

He swallowed, trembling. "You look... beautiful as ever, mistress."

"Good," Jesse said happily.  James had never called her mistress before, but it was probably something worth encouraging. She liked the ring of it in her ears.  Mistress. It suited her. She smirked.

"Save me, Growlithe," James whispered, and fainted dead away. 

Jesse dropped him on the bed, ignoring it when he rolled off to land in a crumpled heap on the floor. She let her mind drift back to a woman who did not, despite what anyone who was too blind to make an effective witness would say, look anything like her, and who happened to be betrothed to James.   She mentally did a quick comparison between Jessibelle's choice of hairstyle, and that affected by Domino.

"Damn." She began to rake out the curls with her fingers.

                                                 =R=

"Now, James, I have a wonderful idea," Jesse said happily.  While her friend was unconscious, she had been thinking over her problems, and hit upon the perfect way to prove to the world that she could not care less if Cassidy chose to hang around with a gaol-bait tramp. And, incidentally, she would demonstrate to Cassidy just what she was missing.  "Do you want to hear it?"

"Yes, mistress."

"For the thousandth fucking time, I'm not Jessibelle!" she screeched, raising her fist. Unfortunately, she happened to have been playing with her Official Team Rocket Whip at the time.  James' eyes fixed on it, and he whimpered, cowering further back in his chair.

"If you say so, mistress."

"Good." She looked sceptically at him, but decided to let it pass.  "Now, here's my idea." She arranged her features in a sweet, pleading expression, and mentally instructed her eyes to go all wobbly. "You're my only real friend in the entire world, James, do you know that?  Ever since that fickle slut Tyra betrayed me for that redheaded twerp, although why anyone would want a flat chested little tomboy like -" She realised she was ranting, and hastily regained her sugary tone. "You're all I have, James."

"What about Meowth?" sleepily protested the cat pokémon.

"Shut up.  And... you're almost as good-looking  as I am..."

James muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "Huh," but she chose to ignore it. After all, his eyes were going wobbly with tears, too. She just hoped they were sentimental tears, and not ones provoked by the fear that he was back in his fiancée's power.  "So I was thinking..." She took his hands gently in hers. "James, dear?"

"Yes, Jesse?" He looked nervously up at her, but she had remembered to put down the whip this time.

"I think it's time we moved our relationship to the next level." She closed her eyes and leaned in towards him.

                                                   =R=

"Open the fucking door!"

"No!"

James could hear the toe of Jesse's boot smashing into the door, but it held fast. "You can't hide in a closet all your life, James!"

"Why not? You do!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

There was a silence as James tried to think of an answer which would guarantee his survival. "Nothing."  He huddled into his nice dark corner.  He was safe in his closet, and he shared it with pretty dresses.  He could stay there quite happily for a long time.

There was a flash of light from the cracks under the closet door. "Arbok, tear the door down and fetch that snivelling coward out so I can kiss him."

"Jesse," Meowth said worriedly, "you can't let Arbok out in..."

"Chhhhaaaaraboooooooook."

There were some noises of treasured possessions smashing and a shriek as Jesse realised why it was a bad idea to let a giant cobra out of a pokéball, at least in a room barely bigger than, say, a closet.  It was followed by another flash of light.  "That was your fault too, James."

"Yes, mistress."

"Stop saying that!  And come out and kiss me like a man."

"I would have thought being kissed like a man was the last thing you were interested in, Jess," James pointed out, somewhat unwisely.

There was the sound of a door opening and slamming, and then silence.  James began to calculate his odds of creeping out and making a run for it.  Of course, knowing Jesse, the door slamming was probably a trick, and she was waiting just outside the closet with a giant mallet, waiting to brain him.  He decided to occupy himself going through the closet contents instead.

Eventually, Jesse must have decided her ruse wasn't working, because he next heard her voice raised pathetically. "James?"

"Yes, Jesse?"

"Why have you and Cassidy both rejected me?  Am I not pretty enough?" Her voice caught on a sob. "Am I too outspoken?  Why do you see right through me?"

"Well, you may not be as pretty as I am, and you do tend to scream a lot."

There was a howl of rage and the sounds of paper fans pounding against the door.  James waited for them to subside a little, and added, "But that's not why I won't kiss you, Jess."

"Well, then, why not?"

James sighed. "I'm sitting in a closet, Jesse.  What do you think this is intended to represent?"

"That you're a pathetic scaredy-cat!"

"Hey!" protested Meowth.

"Listen, Jess, it wouldn't work out anyway. Why don't we go back to Sunnytown after all this? You can reconcile with Tyra, and flaunt her in Cassidy's face.  Tyra's much prettier than Domino, you know.  Not as pretty as me, but she'll do.  Cassidy will be so jealous she'll look like a meganium."

Jesse sniffled a little, but she seemed in far better control of herself.  James began to relax a little.  Then he noticed something with distracted him entirely from his partner's heartbreak, and his own impending doom.  He investigated.

"What're you doing in there?" Meowth's suspicious voice came through the door.  James called out to his partner instead.

"Yeah?" she demanded, sulkily.  "Are you reconsidering yet?"

"This is a weightless boned E-cup bustier, isn't it?  The red satin one with little pink quilted hearts, I mean – the one you wear with your long red dress."  He couldn't really make out the colours in the darkness, but he had a good memory for women's underwear.

"So? You're the lingerie expert. What's your point?"

"Well, you're a C, maybe D-cup at most, Jesse. Perhaps DD at that time of month, but that's really stretching it.  This bustier would fit Prima.  What do you do, put shoulder pads down the front?"

Sometimes James' brain had difficulty catching up with his mouth, especially was he was engaged on a subject he found fascinating.  He had asked about the bustier out of purely technical interest.  It was always nice to pick up handy hints, and Jesse was usually perfectly willing to discuss fashion secrets, often for hours at a time.  It was only when the door began to shake under repeated blows that he realised that perhaps was not the time to work on his career as a designer.  Especially as Jesse was pointing out, between expletives, he was the expert on bra-stuffing in the team.

"Meowth hates to interrupt your bonding session, but we're going to be late to the Boss' party."

There was a chilling silence.  James, for lack of a nearby partner, hugged himself in terror.

"James! James, it's okay, you can come out… I won't kiss you."  Jesse sounded very frightened.  "James, please, I have to get to my clothes."

"You have to promise not to hit me either."

"You little w- I mean, I promise. Please, James. I can't go to the party in my uniform.  Not when Domino will be dressed to the nines."

She sounded genuinely depressed.  James melted despite himself.  He was being so selfish.  The woman he cared about more than anyone else in the world was facing being not the best dressed woman in the room for the first time since…the last time he had worn drag, and here he was cowering in a closet.

"Okay," he said reluctantly.  "I'm all dressed, anyway."  He slowly opened the door.

Meowth and Jesse gazed expressionlessly at him. Finally, Jesse said slowly, "I'd better not let your near Cassidy, or she'll have her tongue down your throat in less than thirty seconds. James? James, open that closet door right now!"

           =tbc=